What is a high-quality afterschool program?

Research has demonstrated that youth benefit from high-quality afterschool programs. According to the National AfterSchool Association report, Why Afterschool Quality Matters, high-quality afterschool programs:

  • Foster positive relationships between program participants and staff
  • Offer a blend of academic and developmental skill-building activities
  • Rely on data-driven best practices and standards
  • Promote high levels of student engagement
  • Provide appropriate levels of structure as well as opportunities for autonomy and choice

We provide a variety of quality improvement resources for afterschool program staff and the community, including:

Quality Improvement Assistance

Our team implements an ongoing cycle of continuous improvement and assessment to support quality improvement efforts of afterschool programs throughout the state. Available services include coaching, training, consultation, observations, and more. Contact Us

Program Evaluation Tools (PQA)

An essential factor in increasing program quality is determining how a program is implementing best practices. We recommend the Weikart Center’s Program Quality Assessment (PQA) tool to empower you to evaluate the quality of your youth program, giving you the tools to identify your program’s strengths and target areas for improvement. The PQA tool is nationally recognized as the leading tool to promote high-quality out-of-school time programs. There are two versions: the Youth PQA (programs serving youth in grades 4-12) and School-Age PQA (programs serving youth in grades K-6). Currently, we provide targeted support to 21st CCLC and licensed afterschool and child care programs for YPQA.

Youth Program Quality Assessment (PQA)
A validated instrument that is designed to measure the quality of youth programs and identify staff training needs. 

Social & Emotional Learning Program Quality Assessment (SEL PQA) 
The Program Quality Assessment (see above) has recently been expanded to include the SEL PQA with a greater focus on the quality of social emotional learning (SEL) instructional practices and growth of students’ SEL skills. The SEL PQA is applicable to both school-age (grades K-6) and youth (grades 4-12).

Professional Learning Opportunities

Highly trained staff better understand the goals and objectives of programs and are able to build stronger relationships with the youth, families, and communities they serve. Afterschool professionals from the front lines all the way up to the administrative level can take advantage of our conference, workshops, and online learning opportunities.

Evaluation Data

Vermont Afterschool partners with the Vermont Agency of Education to evaluate 21st CCLC program data and research to determine program outcomes and ultimately inform the best practices and standards we recommend.


Quality Research & Resources

American Institute for Research
How students spend time outside of the classroom—before and after school and during breaks and summer vacation—has a tremendous impact on what they achieve in school and in life. Quality expanded learning opportunities extend learning and positive youth development beyond the school bell and engage students who might otherwise be left behind. Our work in the afterschool and expanded learning field supports the creation, evaluation, improvement, and maintenance of high-quality afterschool and expanded learning programs in a variety of ways.

Beyond the Bell: Turning Research into Action in Afterschool and Expanded Learning
A series of briefs and tools focused on how afterschool programs can support the social and emotional development of young people. AIR designed these resources to make research on the afterschool and expanded learning field accessible, easy to read, and ultimately useful in practice.

Beyond the Bell® Toolkit 4th edition
A suite of professional development services, products, and practical tools designed to help afterschool program leaders and staff members create and sustain high-quality, effective afterschool and expanded learning programs.

Search Institute
Search Institute offers research-based tools and resources to translate the passion and commitment of your youth development staff into effective developmental relationships that help young people thrive.

Afterschool Alliance
Delve into the Alliance’s vast collection of research resources that shows afterschool programs are keeping kids safe, inspiring learning, and helping working families across the country.

National AfterSchool Association
NAA is pleased to offer the afterschool professional a wide range of tools and downloads designed to both grow your career and strengthen your program.

Expanding Minds and Opportunities
Studies have shown that high quality expanded learning programs link to student achievement. The tools and research summaries here outline some of the most compelling research on the impact of expanded learning on student achievement, attendance, and classroom behavior.